FOR WHITE MEN
How to Work
M J P • N E W YO R K
FOR WHITE MEN
Copyright © 2008 Chuck Shelton
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I dedicate this book to Dad, Mom, and Suzanne.
Every day your love shows me how to
choose the right,
and love long.
“To whom much is given,
much is expected.”
#1 Diversity: Get it right, get it now. 1
#2 Deﬁne diﬀerences. 5
#3 Introducing e Fundamental Filter 9
Like All Others: Identify and treasure similarities. xx
#4 Like Some Others: Clarify what’s cultural. xx
#5 Like No Other: Seek to turn loose the contribution
of uniqueness. xx
#6 Build your Diversity Point of View. xx
#7 Learn to articulate the business case for diversity. xx
#8 Seize the sustainable collaborative advantage. xx
#9 Commit to personal response-ability. xx
#10 Own your whiteness. xx
#11 Decide what it means to be a good and connective man. xx
#12 Consciously and appropriately integrate race and gender into
your leadership work. xx
#13 Deepen the particular participation of white men who lead:
diversity work that adds measurable value. xx
#14 Explore the pigment paradigm. xx
#15 Close the history rift. xx
#16 Travel the Transformation Curve: From Pre-Awareness
to Relative Expertise. xx
#17 Transformation through Pre-Awareness – Acknowledge
that you don’t know what you don’t know. xx
#18 Awaken to awareness. xx
#19 Distinguish between generalizations and stereotypes. xx
#20 Consider the normativity of white men. xx
#21 Hunt through the lessons of your boyhood. xx
#22 Steer clear of “political correctness.” xx
#23 Introducing e Advantage Complex: Unpack your power. xx
#24 e Advantage Complex: Appraise privilege. xx
#25 e Advantage Complex: Discipline your views of
preference and aﬃrmative action. xx
#26 e Advantage Complex: Evaluate opportunity with
utter honesty. xx
#27 Analyze your ethnicity. xx
#28 Uncover and reframe racist assumptions. xx
#29 See past the illusion of color blindness. xx
#30 Invest heavily in due regard. xx
LEADERSHIP 101 vii
#31 Transformation through Interest & Necessity – Enlighten
your self-interest and leverage your necessity. xx
#32 Transformation through Careful Skill Progress – Practice
and adapt; it’s evolutionary. xx
#33 Transformation through Adventurous Competence – Go for it;
it’s revolutionary. xx
#34 Study a case in Adventurous Competence. xx
#35 Transformation through Relative Expertise – Lead with
boldness and humility. xx
#36 Watch Yourself: Build the critical skill of self-monitoring. xx
MANAGE EMOTIONS xv
#37 Deal with denial. xx
#38 Face the fear. xx
#39 Get past the guilt, and shed the shame. xx
#40 Metabolize anger constructively. xx
#41 Redirect excuses and whining. xx
#42 Engage change and risk. xx
#43 Accept your losses. xx
#44 Celebrate the courage of your convictions. xx
#45 Identify progress, but focus on joint achievement
going forward. xx
#46 Culture at Work: Aﬃrm the power of group identity. xx
#47 Culture at Work: It’s black culture, not a conspiracy.
Inform yourself. xx
#48 Culture at Work: Grow the diverse culture of
white male managers. xx
#49 Culture at Work: Anticipate and handle resistance
from white people. xx
#50 Learn about “Living While Black” and cultural diﬀerences
between women and men. xx
#51 Validate. Do not equate. xx
#52 Respond with intellect and care to the crosscurrents in your
interracial learning. xx
#53 e 55% Rule: Diﬀerentiate for reciprocity. xx
#54 Constantly calibrate intent and impact. xx
#55 Words that Wound, One: Make your mouth obey your values. xx
#56 Words that Wound, Two: Never let the “n-word” leave your
lips, and quit using the Exclusion Code. xx
#57 Conversing in White & Black: Keep four things in mind. xx
#58 Our exemption from respectful talk has expired: do not
presume immunity and impunity. xx
#59 Character Counts: Demonstrate your “being” through
your “doing.” xx
#60 Respect: Give it. Get it. Keep it. xx
#61 Trust-Building: Make promises, keep promises over time. xx
#62 Trust-Building: Renounce distrust, and don’t break
your promises. xx
#63 Trust-Building: Deliver on Key Promises 1 – 3. xx
LEADERSHIP 101 ix
#64 Trust-Building: Deliver on Key Promises 4 – 6. xx
#65 Trust-Building: Assess team trust. xx
#66 A strong friendship will change you forever. xx
#67 Raise white boys right. xx
#68 Inﬂuence with courteous nonverbals. xx
#69 Evolve the discipline of daily reminders. xx
#70 Pay close attention to race-related circumstances,
and be prepared to act. xx
#71 Find the fun. xx
#72 Do what’s right in “only one” situations. xx
#73 Take care of yourself so you can keep up the good work. xx
LEAD AMONG COLLEAGUES xv
#74 Navigate diversity’s ﬁve business trends. xx
#75 Ground the diversity imperative in seven business motives. xx
#76 Establish accountability with diversity-related
performance objectives. xx
#77 Attract, interview, and win diverse talent. xx
#78 Individualize the way you lead. xx
#79 Prevent inequity. xx
#80 Motivate with diﬀerences in view. xx
#81 Make decisions inclusively. xx
#82 Coach performance improvement. xx
#83 Be a mentor, ﬁnd a mentor. xx
#84 Provide performance-based development opportunities. xx
#85 Develop a diverse team. xx
#86 Resolve conﬂict. xx
#87 Recognize and reward performance. xx
#88 Ensure that diversity training drives success. xx
#89 Prepare high potential employees for advancement. xx
#90 Promote high performers. xx
#91 Terminate with equity. xx
#92 Avoid litigation, and lead beyond the law. xx
LEAD AMONG CUSTOMERS xv
#93 Pursue the black marketplace. xx
#94 Develop products and services for black customers. xx
#95 Handle issues and opportunities in sales and marketing. xx
#96 Serve black customers eﬀectively. xx
#97 Manage relationships with diverse suppliers. xx
LEAD TRANSFORMATIVELY xv
#98 Calculate diversity’s real return on investment. xx
#99 Lead with a transformative vision. xx
#100 Lead yourself to expertise. xx
#101 Lead your organization to success. xx
ABOUT THE AUTHOR xx
am deeply indebted to so many partners in the learning that fueled
this book: family, friends, colleagues, clients, professionals in the
written word, experts in diversity, and leaders from many settings.
My heartfelt thanks extend to the following: Joe Albert, Cara and
Ed Barker, Manie Barron, Sharon Bilgischer, Barbara Deane, Deb Fine,
Tammi Jean Franklin, Rick Frishman, Bob Gilliom, Stacey Girdner, Laura
Lee Grace, Richard Gray, Deborah and Lee Griﬃng, Stephen Guy, David
Hahn, Bill and Marian Hall, Ben Hancock, David Hancock, Chitra and
Tim Hanstad, Mallorie Hebert, Gary Kessler, Ed King, George Koch, Patrice
Lewis, Lana Madison, Pat and Barb McDermott, Richard Mouw, William
Pannell, Roy Prosterman, Sue Salget, Brenda Salter-McNeil, Lewis Smedes,
Nancy Solomon, Dick Staub, Jeannine ill, Megan Washburn, Claudia
White, Woodie White, Susan Wright, and Scott Young.
I have been specially blessed by my amazing family: Suzanne Shelton,
Melinda Shelton, Patrick Shelton, Mary and Beck Shelton, Joan, Hank,
Chris and Michelle Broeckling, and Roger and Sharon Shelton. I hope you
ﬁnd that this book honors our family’s heritage and future.
once saw a poster promoting a gig by a rock band named White Male
Guilt. I didn’t go. And no, I didn’t feel guilty about missing it.
Yes, I’m a white man, born and raised in America. I work as a leader.
I’ve been married for thirty-plus years, and we have 2.0 children. I
speak only English.
And sometimes diversity makes me defensive. It’s tough to embrace
diversity as an opportunity when it is used to shame white men for the
behavior of our ancestors, who are often presumed to be slaveholders whether
or not they were. It’s hard to be diagnosed with symptoms of “dominance,”,
“oppression,” and all manner of “isms” (racism, sexism) ad nauseam, like
invisible diseases infecting only white guys.
rough a lifetime of learning and leading, however, I have discovered
that white men generally are not hostile to people who are “diﬀerent.” We
know that everyone is unique. Most white men in leadership enjoy productive
relationships with women and people of color. We are usually willing to
pursue the ways diversity can help our organization succeed.
LEADERSHIP 101 xiii
Yet we are clear about what we don’t want from diversity—to be the
designated villain. As one white man, a weary veteran of corporate diversity
intrigues, complained: “I just want diversity to leave me alone.” at’s
unlikely; white males are now thirty-eight percent of all American employees,
and white men who lead are just ﬁve percent of the U.S. workforce.
As a fellow white man who leads, I recommend that, since we can’t run
from diversity, we shouldn’t hide from it either. We have to ﬁnd our way
beyond defensiveness. I have intentionally learned about diﬀerences in race
and gender for most of my life. I’ve been taught the most about managing
diversity by those who have suﬀered as a result of their distinctives: black
people and others of color, immigrants, gay and lesbian colleagues, and white
women. ey showed me that their opportunities should not be truncated by
personal attributes they did not choose, such as race, nation of birth, sexual
orientation, and gender.
As white men, we know we need to learn more about leading among diverse
stakeholders. In particular, the deeply rooted diﬀerences between white and
black people continue to present us with powerful challenges. With all that’s
between us as white and black Americans—what’s come before and what still
separates us—it is time to get things right and make things right with our
black colleagues and customers.
T HE B OOK’S VOICE
Consequently, this book equips white men to lead. White women may
also ﬁnd some of these ideas useful as they seek to build stronger relationships
with black women and men. And many of the lessons herein apply to all
relationships, including people of colors other than black.
A note on language: while many black folks prefer the term “African-
American,” very few white people refer to ourselves as “European-American.”
So I will generally use the term black as partner to white, and trust that
African-Americans will understand my intent.
I focus in this book on working successfully with black colleagues and
customers because there are ancient issues not suﬃciently resolved between
us. We need to continue the progress between black and white Americans,
and also learn to lead eﬀectively among people of other ethnicities and
dimensions of diversity.
Not one black person you speak to about this book will agree with all my
ideas. I suspect I’ve got some things wrong; I just don’t know which things.
Or maybe, as one of my black friends said about the book: “It’s so very white.”
But their views should not cause you to discount my advice. I’m not speaking
to black people. I’m writing about diversity as a white man who leads, and
I’m talking to my own kind. I hope the book will equip us all to talk together
more eﬀectively. Constructive controversy is a healthy American tradition.
If you disagree with me, or what I suggest doesn’t work for you, then ﬁnd
what does work to build stronger relationships with black colleagues and
customers. at’s what personal responsibility is all about. Use the book to
do good and do well.
M A E
I hope you will be encouraged or at least intrigued to encounter me as a
white man who leads with tested convictions about how humans are alike
and unique. It is important for you to know what I assume and what I expect
• R : Each person I encounter is unique and
deserves respectful treatment from me. I expect the same from them. I assume the
LEADERSHIP 101 xv
good faith of colleagues and customers. And if any person behaves in bad faith
toward me or the people I lead, I will respond appropriately.
• C: People sometimes receive my communication diﬀerently
than I intend. I will try to close any gap between intent and impact, and I
expect others to reciprocate. I will seek out, listen, and respond to feedback from
leaders above me, my peers and employees, and our customers.
• “D” “”: I need to monitor and assign
meaning to “diﬀerence” with more intelligence and openheartedness, and
less bias. I will try not to negatively judge a person for being diﬀerent in
appearance, experience, temperament, or opinion. I reserve the right, however,
to evaluate behavior as problematic.
• W : Our leadership
should serve generations to come, so we must rethink “diﬀerentness” as white
men who lead in American organizations. Our particular advantages and
choices, along with commonly held democratic and religious values, position us
to contribute to an historic and global shift. Going forward, human diﬀerences
will cause less conﬂict and produce more respect and opportunity in the
marketplace and society.
• M : Working eﬀectively with human
diﬀerences can be simple enough, in that I need simply to apply the skills I
already possess to new challenges among diverse coworkers and customers.
• M : It is vital that I examine
my own interests, values, biases, and behaviors as a white man who leads. I also
need to learn what inﬂuences others to communicate and behave the way they
do, so that we can achieve results together.
I try to square my leading and my writing with these six core values.
O R B
Readers will open this book with diverse needs, expectations, and experiences.
Consider several options for exploring the 101 essays that follow.
By all means, ﬁrst study the Core Ideas in essays 1–13. And focus on the
Conversation Starters at the end of each essay, as they oﬀer a question or an
idea to discuss with coworkers, family, and friends.
Reading Option One
Continue on through essays 14–101, reading one or two per day. Explore
the Conversation Starters. e order of the book’s nine sections equips you
to lead on diversity from the inside out: Core Ideas, Start, ink, Learn,
Manage Emotions, Respond, Talk, Act, Lead.
Reading Option Two
After essays 1–13, explore a critical path through seventeen additional
essays, considering key concepts. Here’s the trail I recommend:
#19 Distinguish between generalizations and stereotypes.
#23 e Advantage Complex: Unpack your power.
#24 e Advantage Complex: Appraise privilege.
#25 e Advantage Complex: Discipline your views of preference and
#26 e Advantage Complex: Evaluate opportunity with
#30 Invest heavily in due regard.
#36 Watch Yourself: Build the critical skill of self-monitoring.
#37 Deal with denial.
#38 Face the fear.
LEADERSHIP 101 xvii
#39 Get past the guilt, and shed the shame.
#40 Metabolize anger constructively.
#45 Identify progress, but focus on joint achievement going forward.
#54 Constantly calibrate intent and impact.
#61 Trust-Building: Make promises, keep promises over time.
#76 Establish accountability with diversity-related performance
#93 Pursue the black marketplace.
#99 Lead with a transformative vision.
en read for interest.
Reading Option Three
Review each section introduction, and then study what grabs you.
For example, if you’re looking for a structured approach to your diversity
learning, essays 16–18 and 31–35 will help. Or if you’d like to drill into
speciﬁc leadership tasks, consider essays 76–92.
It should be noted that, in some examples, names and other identiﬁers
have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty.
Finally, remember that everything between white and black people is not
about race, and everything between men and women is not about gender. It
is simplistic and risky to attribute a diﬀerence of opinion to a diﬀerence in
pigment or biology.
is book pursues a straightforward purpose: I want white men who lead
to seize the personal and professional proﬁt in working more successfully
with black colleagues and customers.
May that be the return on your investment in this book.
Get it right, get it now.
iversity presents us, as white men in leadership, with a stark
choice: human diﬀerences are either a distracting pain in
the rear or a potent opportunity to improve. is book
fuels the second option, by equipping white men to lead
more successfully alongside black colleagues and customers.
White men have been a problem for black women and men for centuries. Some
of our white male predecessors owned their black ancestors as slaves for more than
250 years. is is about making right out of what our kind got wrong.
And the challenge isn’t just ancient history. We need to make it right, right
now. Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Pouissant describes being black in today’s
America as “death by a thousand nicks.”
2 CORE IDEAS
Here’s what it means to get diversity: white men who lead must do whatever
we can to put a stop to this nicking, the tiny ripping in a black person’s daily
life that bleeds their joy and scabs over their potential.
Almost four hundred years from slavery’s New World inception in 1619,
white and black people still have a lot to learn and much to do—together. As
white men, we’re sick of being viewed as the problem. As leaders, most of us
seek to become part of the solution. Here’s how.
G I R
Women complain that men “just don’t get it.” Black people object that
whites “will never get it.” Employees have been known to observe that “my
manager doesn’t want to get it.” As white men who lead, we seem to get
it from every direction. In response, we mentally mutter several questions
about “getting it.”
What is “it”?
Here’s the “it” we need to get: “the ability to distinguish among the attributes
and cultures of your employees, peers, superiors, and customers, so that you
encourage their contributions.” I call this due regard (see essay 30). Our diverse
customers and colleagues observe us getting it when our leadership shows that
we care enough to involve them as individuals. ey see us evaluate problems
and opportunities from a culturally informed perspective.
We should acknowledge an irony here: we are confronted with the need
to learn the signiﬁcance of our own race and gender, while surrounded with
legal and social mandates to act toward people without regard for their race
As white men, we are just now conducting a personal and interpersonal
due diligence on diversity that black people have been compelled to practice
LEADERSHIP 101 3
throughout life. Remembering this will perhaps take the edge oﬀ our periodic
need to whine about the diﬃculties in being a white man today.
Do I want to get “it”?
Managing successfully among diverse people yields profound personal and
professional proﬁt. See the “What’s in diversity for me?” argument in essay 8, on
sustainable collaborative advantage. is is an uncomplicated proposition:
if you want to get diversity, you will. In doing so, you will secure remarkable
beneﬁts. It is a simple case of getting it before not getting it gets you.
Does my organization want “it”?
e business case for diversity is well tested and persuasive (see essays 7, 74,
and 75). Explore why your organization should pursue diversity as a strategic
advantage. Sadly, many corporate diversity commitments bog down into
compliance (“don’t get sued, avoid bad press”) or celebration (“ethnicity of
the month”). A company’s diversity strategy will sustain results only when
• it positions the organization to compete for talent and customers;
• a growing number of white male managers actively support it.
How do I go about getting “it”?
e method for getting it may be summarized in a word: teachability.
is means being ready, willing, and able to learn diversity’s lessons fast
and well, so you develop the reputation for instructability among people
who are diﬀerent from you. You’ll be amazed at the insight and grace black
people will extend as you responsively learn, in mind and heart, side by
side with them.
4 CORE IDEAS
Your customers buy and your employees work in an environment teeming
with human diﬀerences that matter. As a white man who leads, your success
hinges, in part, on your ability to learn about diversity at work.
G ET IT NOW
Is it ever too late for a white man who leads to learn about diversity? In
this case, late isn’t much better than never. If you don’t seize the advantages in
leading eﬀectively among diverse stakeholders today, you will lose promotions
to other white men and diverse colleagues who know how to do that right
now. And if your organization struggles to leverage the power of diversity,
you can be certain that competitors are pursuing a diversity strategy to win
market share, talent, and capital.
In any case, as white men who lead, we have a lot to learn and it’s going
to take us awhile to learn it. It’s time to commit. Diversity: get it right, get
C S: What don’t you get about diversity, and how will
you get these questions answered?
et’s be honest. Diversity is often a code word for diﬀerences in
race and gender. I’m okay with that, as long as we intend such
a code to communicate that racial and gender diﬀerences are
essential to understanding the humans we lead. Gender and race
matter; universally residing in our DNA, these aspects of diﬀerence are also
suﬀused with historic meaning and current impact.
But it is more useful to us as leaders when we pursue diversity as a truly
inclusive paradigm of human diﬀerence. It’s about race and gender—and
more. Diversity, simply put, is a concept to diﬀerentiate all the qualities that
distinguish us from one another. Race and gender are vital currents in the
human river, but there are other diﬀerences that leaders must navigate.
Over the years, my work with managers has led me to focus on the
workplace impact of twenty dimensions of diversity. is book focuses
6 CORE IDEAS
primarily on race (skin color and other physical traits that inﬂuence
complex social meanings and practical knowledge) and leadership (an
occupational role secured through opportunity and professional skill), with
some attention to gender (being female or male, with the accompanying
physical and social experiences).
e twenty dimensions of diversity are listed below (alphabetically, not in
priority order). My purpose here is to deﬁne human diﬀerences to make them
easy for the reader to use. If my deﬁnitions seem simplistic or inaccurate to
you, please formulate your own.
A G: How old you are and the inﬂuence of the time period
in which you were born.
A: Your individual look, from physical attributes to chosen image.
C T: How you tend to think and learn.
C/E: e degree of understanding and skill you
demonstrate, as inﬂuenced by your background.
D: Your natural styles of personal conduct, communication, (e.g.,
outspoken/quiet, serious/easy-going), and collaboration.
E S S, C: e money and resources you
or your family of origin have, your social aﬃliations, and the opportunities those
relationships provide to you.
E A: Values and options you possess through
completing levels of education and training.
E: A cultural group of which you are a part that may be
distinguished by such common traits as appearance, demeanor, family,
geography, language, race, and religion.
LEADERSHIP 101 7
F: Your current family relationships, family of origin, and ancestry.
G: Being female or male, with the accompanying physical and social
experiences. (Note: Some scholars use the word sex to refer to inborn
physical traits, and gender for culturally learned attitudes and behavior.
I have found, as I work with men, that the word sex connotes behavior,
so I take the liberty of using the term gender to include innate and
G O: Connection to place; where you grew up (city,
suburb, town, rural area), and where you live now.
H: Your physical and mental well-being, and the well-being of those for
whom you care.
L: e tongues you speak or understand.
L: e personal activities that are important to you and in which you
participate (music, entertainment, sports, hobbies, clubs, and so on).
N: Your nation of origin or adoption, including military service.
O: Your ﬁelds of knowledge and eﬀort, and your professional role.
P I: Your opinions on and aﬃliations with issues, elected
oﬃcials, and government.
R: Your skin color and other physical traits that inﬂuence complex social
meanings and practical knowledge.
R O A: Your tendencies and
inclinations to people or tasks, friendship, sexuality (the gender to which you are
physically attracted, and the way you manage that attraction).
8 CORE IDEAS
R C/S: Your faith or spiritual interests.
No doubt there are other aspects of diversity that could be added to this
list, and certainly there are more complete deﬁnitions of these categories. But
such accessible deﬁnitions equip us as white men to think, speak, and lead
But what if deﬁning diﬀerences this inclusively is really a smokescreen that
obscures diversity’s real issues? Black professionals have complained to me
that white people prefer to deﬁne diversity this broadly so that we can avoid
dealing with race. I have seen that this can be true: in a popular management
handbook, e Boss’s Survival Guide, the three white male authors completely
ignore race while exploring other dimensions of diversity. To advise managers
on diversity and never mention race is breathtakingly ignorant.
at being said, the book you hold uses the dimensions of diversity
concept as a paradigm for all the human diﬀerences that leaders must learn to
manage, while investigating race as a critical area for concern and growth.
is dimensions of diversity approach is a practical tool for leading from
the inside out as a white man. It will serve you well.
C S: Which dimensions of diversity most inﬂuence who
you are? Which dimensions least shape who you are?
the Fundamental Filter
n 1950, two Harvard professors, Clyde Kluckhohn and Henry
A. Murray, edited Personality in Nature, Society, and Culture, a
groundbreaking anthology on what makes humans tick. ese editors
provided us with a tool for sifting through human diﬀerences. I call it
the Fundamental Filter, and we can use it to distill meaning in three levels
of human identity.
Each one of us is:
Like All Others,
Like Some Others, and
Like No Other.
10 CORE IDEAS
To say we are Like All Others speaks of universality, the ways that all
humans are similar. What we share in common as humans is astounding and
wonderful and precious. Our sameness is real and powerful, even when we
don’t see it or feel it. Our alikeness is the garden where our diﬀerences can
grow in health.
To note that we are Like Some Others speaks to our social character. Here
is an inescapable truth: we are joiners, relational creatures who innately need
to associate with those like us. is is about the richness and comfort and
inevitability of culture, group identity, and organizational life.
And to declare that we are Like No Other just aﬃrms the obvious—
individuality is core to our existence. All the dimensions of diversity,
universality, and group identity weave together to form each of us as one-
of-a-kind. at’s awesomely good. e catch to individuality? We are solely
answerable for ourselves and our work.
To equip you to distinguish among universal traits, group identities, and
individuality, let’s scrutinize each membrane of this Fundamental Filter.
Like All Others:
Identify and treasure
Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.
We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future.
And we are all mortal.
P J F. K
12 CORE IDEAS
hite male managers have been known to voice the
concern that emphasizing our diﬀerences can drive
employees apart, rather than helping us work together.
So how do we focus on diﬀerences without deepening
One way to do this is to recognize and understand—the action words of
awareness—that people are fundamentally similar in many ways, even when
our diﬀerences are so apparent.
To illustrate this from my own life, let me tell you about Brenda, a colleague
and a dear friend. We don’t look much alike or come from the same place:
she’s a beautiful black woman from New Jersey, and I’m a fast-aging white
guy from Seattle. We diﬀer in many other ways as well, but let me oﬀer up
some of what we have in common:
• We worship the same Lord, and faith is core to our lives.
• We earned advanced degrees (okay, she’s Rev. Dr. Brenda; I just
can’t keep up).
• We’re passionately committed to racial reconciliation.
• We are a bit loud.
• We laugh a lot (sometimes at each other).
• We like to speak in public.
• We sing.
• We are married to psychologists.
• We each have two children, a boy and a girl.
• We write books.
• We struggled through the loss of a parent and came out stronger.
• We tune in observantly to people around us.
LEADERSHIP 101 13
• We enjoy thinking deeply, and we try to apply our deep thinking
to our lives.
• We are not rich, but we have enough.
• We enjoy relatively good health, but we don’t relax enough.
• We’re brave most of the time.
• We like Cuban food.
• We are … friends.
It took me less than ﬁve minutes to come up with this list. But many
people, observing the two of us together, would note only our diﬀerences.
Brenda and I are profoundly diﬀerent, and we are wonderfully alike.
Sift through this ﬁlter of commonality by responding to the following
exercise. Discuss the traits below with family, friends, and colleagues. Reﬁne
your own view of how humans are alike.
14 CORE IDEAS
LEADERSHIP 101 15
Such traits characterize and unite us—girls and boys, women and men—
across every race, nationality, physical ability, sexual orientation, and language.
As we explore the reality of diversity, embrace and believe in the power of
what we have in common. To do so is to see ourselves in others. is potent
connection prepares us to live with integrity and lead eﬀectively.
Whenever I meet people I always approach them
from the standpoint of the most basic things we have in common.
We each have a physical structure, a mind, emotions.
We are all born in the same way, and we all die. All of us
want happiness and do not want to suﬀer. Looking at others
from this standpoint ... allows me to have a feeling
that I’m meeting someone just the same as me.
T G, D L
Each one of us is Like All Others.
C S: What human attributes do you believe are
universal? How could this belief change how you think about and relate to
Like Some Others:
Clarify what’s cultural.
Each one of us is:
Like All Others
Like Some Others, and
Like No Other.
o identify and treasure similarities (Like All Others) encourages
our connectedness. But cultural diversity tests our sense of self
and the way we lead. We are often challenged and troubled by
18 CORE IDEAS
Culture may be deﬁned as “the assumptions, values and behaviors a group of
people develop as they share experiences over time.” Our unique individual
identity evolves from our inborn hardwiring, personal experience, and the
profound inﬂuence of all the groups we encounter. Examples include the
• your company
• your profession
• your team
• your coworkers
• customers and clients
• your home and family
• both genders
• American culture.
You and your coworkers and customers live in and are inﬂuenced by
such cultures. You will lead more eﬀectively as a white man when you grow
aware of and skilled at handling human diﬀerences that manifest at a group
level. Illustrations like the following demonstrate how awareness of cultural
alikeness serves a manager’s interest.
• Group diﬀerence by language: Key Bank discovered an increasing
number of Spanish-speaking customers entering their branches in the
eastern half of Washington State. In ﬁve years Hispanics will compose
more than forty percent of the region’s people. e ﬁrst bank system
to deliver bilingual customer service will seize market share.
• Group diﬀerence by geographic orientation: From its inception,
Wal-Mart focused on the need in small towns and rural areas for
greater product choice at the lowest price. is business model has
LEADERSHIP 101 19
expanded to edge suburbs, but has steered clear of urban markets.
• Group diﬀerence by social status, gender, race: e executive team
(all white men) at a New York company instituted a casual Friday
dress code, specifying khakis as preferred clothing for men, and
prohibiting denim for all. eir well-intended policy hit the fan:
some criticized the senior managers as Ivy Leaguers pushing their
upscale informality, women wondered aloud why their denim
options were foreclosed, and people of color had no intention of
dressing down and running the risk of appearing less professional.
• Group diﬀerence by demeanor and cognitive style: A Microsoft
project manager realized that his most poignant diversity
challenge was the diﬀering collaborative styles among team
members. Half his programmers expected to work by themselves
in their oﬃces with someone else integrating their work
(individual orientation), and the other half wanted to team
together in the same large workspace (group orientation). He had
to deliver team results with all of them.
• Group diﬀerence by political interest: Employees in a liberally minded
HMO joked that in their organization it was “more acceptable
to be a lesbian than a Republican.” is turned out be true (and
controversial) when an initiative that outlawed gay marriage
reached the statewide ballot and caused conﬂict in the workplace.
• Group diﬀerence by family, health, generation: In a Fortune 100
company, senior leaders were disturbed to discover through a
consultant’s research that the store managers held up as success
stories (virtually all middle-aged men) suﬀered from consistent
sixty-hour work weeks, high divorce rates, and poor health.
Many high potential assistant store managers (younger women
20 CORE IDEAS
and men) observed the price these store leaders paid, and did not
pursue such positions.
We are surrounded by cultural diﬀerences such as these. We need to see
and honor group diﬀerences in order to lead eﬀectively.
T HE R ISK OF GROUPISM
Many who speak, write, and teach about diversity tend to emphasize the
ways people are shaped by groups. ey stress the power of cultural diversity
(our Like Some Others ﬁlter). But we need to beware of what I call groupism,
which is the unthinking presumption that cultural connections determine
individuality rather than shape individuality.
It is true that each one of us is inﬂuenced by the norms and behaviors
of people with whom we share distinctives. But group inﬂuence does not
determine our individuality; that’s what stereotyping teaches (see essay 19).
Diversity work in some contexts suﬀers from an “us versus them” mentality.
Leaders need to avoid this groupthink trap. As a manager, you work to build
a team and an enterprise with diverse persons, where individual enablement
GROUP DIFFERENCE BY R ACE , G ENDER, AND
O CCUPATION : W HITE MEN W HO L EAD ?
As white men who lead, we don’t tend to identify ourselves as part of
the group technically known to others as “white guys.” It is easier to avoid
examining the culturally derived advantage that accrues due to our whiteness
and maleness. In subconscious peripheral vision, our own race and gender tend
LEADERSHIP 101 21
to be deﬁned by what they aren’t; being white can be “not black,” and being a
man can be “not like a woman.” We need to explore the culture of white men
who lead (see essay 48), since they are some of the others we are like!
For now, permit me to oﬀer you this guarantee. Your black colleagues
need you to understand your own cultural connections: the cultures of race,
gender, and occupation that shape you.
C S: By dimension of diversity, of which cultures are
you a part? How does being in this group shape you and your choices?
Like No Other:
Seek to turn loose the
contribution of uniqueness.
Each one of us is: Like All Others
Like Some Others, and Like No Other.
ommon sense teaches that each one of us is unique. And
many white male managers focus intensely on individuality.
Perhaps we’ve internalized the John Wayne–ish image of
ourselves as independent and self-actualized men.
LEADERSHIP 101 23
ere’s truly good news here for us as white men: we “get” individuality,
so we are particularly well suited to turn loose the contribution of the utterly
unique people we lead. Many of us seem to lead with the innate sense that
since each direct report decides how they will follow us, we need to lead them
one at a time.
e real challenge for us comes when we try to lead in a way that calls out
each person’s uniqueness, while also honoring each person’s cultures (Like
Some Others) and similarities (Like All Others).
A white male VP at Fuller eological Seminary did this well. e two
female managers in his unit tended to remain quiet at team meetings. Instead
of assuming that he knew why, he talked with them individually. One, a
newer member of the team, indicated her preference to get to know the others
better before she participated more. e other woman was deeply frustrated
because she “couldn’t get a word in edgewise,” while the men seemed to
interrupt one another, tussling for airtime.
One of the most eﬀective ways to individualize your leadership is to gather
direct feedback from individuals. On the one hand, this manager knew that
some women found it diﬃcult to contribute in meetings, when the men
appeared to verbally compete for control. On the other hand, he didn’t
want to assume the women would respond identically because they were
women. So he supported the ﬁrst woman, as she made her own decisions
about participating. And to help the second, he facilitated a more inclusive
communication style among team members. Everyone beneﬁted.
Each person you serve is Like No Other. Keep these tips in mind:
• Monitor your stereotyping, in which you see an individual as the
personiﬁcation of a group (“ ey’re all like that, and she’s one of
them, so she’s like that.”), and miss their uniqueness.
24 CORE IDEAS
• Take stock of your biases, in which you (often unconsciously)
judge a diﬀerence as bad. Such bias limits your capacity to
connect with people as unique contributors. A small and subtle
example: one time a white male manager expressed to me his
severe discomfort with the dreadlocks worn by a black man
reporting to him. You limit your success by permitting such
reactions to restrain relationships.
• Factor appropriate cultural information into your account of an
individual. When we learn how a black colleague is shaped by
black culture, it gives context to our rapport. Check out essay 30,
on due regard. It’s a sweet method for individualizing.
• Start with the mirror. Some of the traits that identify you as
you—that is, your individuality—are readily observable. Other
attributes stay behind the “seens,” invisible. Understanding others
requires understanding yourself. Schedule time to think through
your own story around each dimension of diversity.
Manage diﬀerences to individualize, rather than divide. Does the very act of
spelling out our diﬀerences separate us rather than unite us? It won’t if we are clear
about why we focus on similarities and diﬀerences. As managers we need to
• focus on similarities—not to inﬂuence others to become like us,
but rather to build mutual trust and common commitment;
• focus on diﬀerences—not to divide, fragment, or reinforce bias, but
rather to give due regard to the individual traits that shape our
colleagues and customers.
Managing diﬀerences and similarities is a powerful method for recognizing
individuality. You do this because each person deserves such respect, and
because it will evoke their best contribution to the team’s results. In so doing
you also distinguish yourself—you demonstrate your own unique excellence
as an eﬀective leader.
LEADERSHIP 101 25
Each one of us is:
Like All Others
Like Some Others, and
Like No Other.
Here’s the chief utility of the Fundamental Filter: these phrases are tools
we can use to view each person we encounter with a consistent approach.
e saying helps us evaluate alikeness and diﬀerence with intelligence and
positive expectation. And that is one highly eﬀective antidote for racism,
sexism, and every other “ism” that degrades a diﬀerence into a ﬁght.
Use these three ﬁltering ideas to identify and treasure similarities, clarify
what’s cultural, and turn loose the contribution of uniqueness.
C S: What is it about you, precisely, that makes you
unique? What is unique about each person you lead?
Your Diversity Point of View.
stablish your Diversity Point of View by applying the three
levels of the Fundamental Filter to the twenty dimensions of
diversity. Okay, if you understood that sentence, you’ve been
paying attention to the previous essays.
Log onto www.leadershipforwhitemen.com, select Diversity Point of View
(DPOV), and download My DPOV. You’ll build your own journal, similar
to the format you see here.
To establish your Diversity Point of View, each dimension of diversity is
considered from four angles:
1) How do I describe me?
2) What do I believe/observe to be true about all people? (Like
LEADERSHIP 101 27
3) What do I see to be generally true about people with whom I
share this dimension? (Like Some Others)
4) How am I unique among people I am like? (Like No Other)
Quiet reﬂection is a learning style often appreciated among white men.
So use this tool to assess where you personally stand with each dimension of
diversity, or at least with the diﬀerences that interest you the most.
Build your DPOV from the inside out. Answer the four questions based on
what you observe and believe. And don’t shortchange your self-assessment work
by moving to action prematurely. Finish your deep-thinking foundation ﬁrst.
Here’s my DPOV on race, ethnicity, gender, and the occupation
R ACE :
How do I describe my racial makeup?
I’m just about as white as they come. To my knowledge, three
fourths of my ancestors hailed from Britain, and one quarter
came from Germany.
How are all people inﬂuenced by their racial traits and experience?
Race seems to matter when another race is present, and when
there is an interracial diﬀerence in power. So it matters that people
of other races see me as white. Race-related traits and experiences
serve all people as markers of diﬀerence.
28 CORE IDEAS
What words generally describe people who share my racial background?
With regard to white people, the word “pre-aware” comes to mind
(see essay 17). We don’t expend many calories learning about
our whiteness. I also generally experience white people as hard
working, friendly, family oriented, future focused, and calm.
In what ways am I unique/unusual among people of my racial makeup?
I explore for myself what being white means, I seek to learn about
the people of other races, and I’m always ready to engage my own
kind in considering what it means to be white.
, , , ,
, ( ).
How do I describe my ethnicity?
If I have to hyphenate myself, I’m European-American. But my
earliest ancestors arrived in North America in the 1630s, and the
most recent came in the 1850s. So, while my tribal DNA is white and
European, and while I understand that American is my nationality,
American also seems to describe my ethnicity more accurately.
How are all people inﬂuenced by their ethnicity?
is mix of traits is a powerful aspect of our self-identity. Ethnicity
= tribe, and the “Like Some Others” experience is critical to our
sense of belonging in the world. It’s about being connected by
likeness. Ethnicity is a key category for social comfort.
LEADERSHIP 101 29
What words generally describe people similar to me ethnically?
I would describe European-Americans and Americans as informal,
committed, pioneering, helpful, and insular.
In what ways am I unique/unusual among people who share my ethnicity?
I’m louder than most white Americans, I think more (sometimes
too much), and I focus on values more and money less.
G ENDER : ,
What gender am I, and what does that mean to me?
I am a man, and to me that means trying to live in a manner
that demonstrates my commitment to integrity (a courageous
congruence between who I want to be and how I act) and intimacy
(the disciplined focus on connectedness in relationships).
How are all people inﬂuenced by their gender?
For me, gender is the most critical dimension of diversity, the
core biological and social fact of life from birth to death. We ﬁnd
both identity and limitation in the attributes society deﬁnes as
masculine and feminine.
What words generally describe people of my gender?
I experience men as people who are focused on getting things done,
physically active, not as quick with words as women, prone to a
teasing sort of humor, and often not ﬂuent with their emotions.
30 CORE IDEAS
In what ways am I unique/unusual among people of my gender?
I was once called an “honorary woman” because I like to talk, and
I tune into emotion (my own and others) more than many men.
I think they meant it as a compliment; I had mixed feelings.
O CCUPATION : ()
How do I describe my occupational commitment?
I am a leader. For years I have worked to deﬁne leadership in ten
words or less. My current deﬁnition of the occupation: achieving
results by developing people though work.
How are all people inﬂuenced by their occupation?
I believe work is an opportunity from God; the chance to exercise
our gifts, pursue our interests, and earn our way in the world.
at being said, millions of people do not enjoy meaningful or
gainful occupations. Every human’s choices are inﬂuenced by
how much they earn.
What words generally describe people who share my occupation?
I often experience leaders as smart, committed, results focused,
time conscious, caring, irritatingly shortsighted, with weaknesses
skewered masterfully in Dilbert cartoons.
In what ways am I unique/unusual among people whose occupation is similar
LEADERSHIP 101 31
I am less patient, more likely to laugh, more focused on people,
better at the big picture and how to get there, worse at detailed
follow-though, and less technically proﬁcient.
To lead with diversity in mind, you actually need to have diversity in your
mind. Your Diversity Point of View is a private tool that helps you clarify
what you believe, what you have experienced and still need to explore, and
what you do and don’t want from diversity.
C S: When will you devote time to journaling on your
Diversity Point of View, and who will you discuss your DPOV with?
Learn to articulate
the business case for diversity.
ax DePree, the retired CEO of Herman Miller, Inc.,
author of Leadership is an Art, and white himself, tells
a story of being invited into a large organization to
speak to the senior management team about leadership.
When all the executives had arrived in the boardroom, the company’s CEO
nodded to Max to let him know it was time to begin his presentation. Max
ignored the gesture. Several silent and awkward moments passed, and still
Max paid no attention to the CEO’s attempts to urge Max to start. Finally
the frustrated CEO walked over to Max, bent down, and whispered, “Mr.
DePree, everyone is here. We’re ready to begin.” Max replied, “No, we’re
not ready; not everyone is here. ere are no women and no people of color
LEADERSHIP 101 33
around this table. No, not everyone is here; we are not ready to begin.” Max
then introduced them to the imperative to create a diverse workforce and
leadership throughout the organization.
We must see the business necessity of diversity clearly, like Max, so that
we can explain it and persuade “our own kind.” Here’s why: without our
partnership, colleagues of color and women have been making the most
cogent, data-based, results-driven arguments for diversity, yet receiving less
than a full hearing. ere are two explanations for this. First, white male
executives may dismiss the factual business case for diversity as simple self-
interest coming from those making the argument. Second, white male
decision makers may wonder if diversity will advantage women and people
of color over them or their sons.
We are the antidote to this resistance, when we join our diverse colleagues
in actively articulating the business beneﬁts of working with diverse employees
e business case for diversity can be distilled into ﬁve business trends and
seven business motives.
• Demographics: In our most populous state, California, there is
now no ethnic majority, and that will be true nationally before
2050. Population change is destiny, and every passing year will
bring competitive advantage to organizations that invest in
reaching the diverse customer base and labor force.
• Education: Today, America struggles to prepare students to compete
in the global marketplace. Diversity issues include overcoming
multilingual challenges, educating both boys and girls eﬀectively,
34 CORE IDEAS
addressing economic and quality disparities among public schools,
and ensuring access to/aﬀordability of higher education.
• Opportunity: Legal protections and public policies (e.g., equal
opportunity and aﬃrmative action), and corporate practices such
as strengthening relationships with women- and minority-owned
vendors, seek to ensure advancement and economic opportunity
for increasingly diverse employees and business partners.
• Participation and economic clout among American women: In
1975, women composed twenty-three percent of all managers in
America, and today that ﬁgure is thirty-seven percent. Women
make eighty-three percent of the buying decisions and collectively
control more than $5 trillion in economic activity. Women-
owned businesses employ more people than all the Fortune 500
ﬁrms combined. American business now devotes more attention
to women’s growing participation and economic clout.
• Globalization: American business generally understands its stake
in working successfully with diﬀerences in culture, language, and
nationality. But the power and pace of worldwide economic change
transcends these dimensions of diversity. As omas Friedman argues
in e World Is Flat, technology is reformulating how individuals and
their organizations work and succeed across the planet.
• Compete in the diverse marketplace: Organizations now segment
markets by gender, age, location (urban, suburban), race, language,
and other dimensions of diversity. ey seek to understand and tap
into the buying power of their customers’ cultures.
LEADERSHIP 101 35
• Select, grow, and retain a diverse workforce: ere is now a pitched
battle for talent—ﬁnding, developing, and keeping the diverse
employees needed to reach diverse customers. e research shows
that good pay and great beneﬁts aren’t enough. Employers seek
to build an environment where all people have the chance to do
what they do best, every day.
• Improve processes: Excellence in managing diversity strengthens
key business behaviors in communication, decision making,
conﬂict resolution, continuous improvement, and customer
service. When inclusion is used eﬀectively as a strategy, diverse
stakeholders innovate and solve business problems faster and
better, and at lower cost.
• Leverage team results: Diverse teams produce better results.
Companies like Apple, HP, and 3M build innovative capability
by seeking to employ more women and people of color.
Heterogeneous groups, with shared goals and values, can avoid
groupthink and deliver superior products and services.
• Strengthen relations with suppliers, community, government, media,
and labor: Many companies now relate to external stakeholders
with an intentional approach to diversity. As a consequence, they
improve revenue and reputation, decrease costs, and manage risk,
through proﬁtable vendor contracting, enhanced community
connections, a constructive engagement with regulators, a positive
relationship with the media, and favorable labor relations. And all
these beneﬁts help them ﬁnd diverse candidates for open jobs and
secure new customers.
• Succeed internationally: A proactive engagement with diversity
is critical to personal and competitive success in a marketplace
36 CORE IDEAS
burgeoning across the nations of the earth, by language, cultural
characteristics, and other aspects of diversity. Another advantage:
multicultural skills also help organizations reach people of the
world who come to the United States.
• Avoid litigation: Handling human diﬀerences competently
helps to prevent what every white male manager fears: claims
of discrimination based on gender or race, or violations of
other protections such as reasonable accommodation. Avoiding
diversity-related lawsuits is a worthy goal; just ask any leader who
has been sucked into such a ﬁght. But when litigation avoidance
serves as the primary objective of a commitment to diversity,
the organization squanders the value that diverse colleagues and
For more detailed information on these trends and motives, see essays 74
and 75 on the underpinnings of the diversity imperative.
If we do not help our colleagues establish a compelling business case for
diversity, other white male managers will tend to tolerate, ignore, or resist
diversity’s contribution, putting themselves and our organizations at risk.
C S: Speciﬁcally, what is the business case for diversity
in your organization?
W HAT’S IN DIVERSITY FOR ME ?
hen diversity is for us, we’re for it. When diversity lines
up against us, we avoid being the nail sticking up, so
we don’t get pounded. It may be painfully obvious to
you how diversity is against you as a white man who
leads: always on the verge of getting blamed for history’s injustice, concerned
about giving corrective feedback to a person of color, discouraged about
competing for a job for which a white man may not be preferred.
38 CORE IDEAS
Beyond the blame and shame game, what’s in diversity for you? Why
should you develop the competence to manage diversity? e bottom line is
simple: sustainable collaborative advantage. Consider the many tangible
beneﬁts that accrue to the white male manager who invests in developing his
As you work more eﬀectively with diverse people, you will:
• Correct the performance of diverse employees with conﬁdence,
instead of withholding your feedback for fear of putting them oﬀ.
• Communicate respectfully with all employees, producing the
impact you intend.
• Delegate more appropriately to develop your people.
• Deepen your insight and hone your skills to win, grow, and keep
diverse customers in global markets.
• Motivate higher productivity, creativity, quality, and continuous
improvement from your diverse team.
• Resolve conﬂicts before they escalate.
• Relax and enjoy people as individuals, rather than suﬀer under
stiﬂing, make-nice censorship. Are you tired of walking on
eggshells around certain people, unclear about how to avoid
oﬀending them by what you say or do?
• Decrease your risk of harassment or discrimination claims.
• Gain appointment to teams and assignments that would beneﬁt
from a white male manager who “gets it.”
• Multiply your diversity learning by living it out with your
family and friends. Help the next generation learn to handle
human diﬀerences; it will be important to their success. And
your community needs more people with the capacity to build a
society that works for all citizens.
LEADERSHIP 101 39
• Understand yourself better, and lead with boldness and humility. Learn
to lead from the inside out, grounded in your character and values.
• Show your boss that you’re smart and talented enough to get
with the diversity program. Such an ability to work successfully
with human diﬀerences will factor into outstanding performance
reviews and better compensation.
• Build a reputation as a promotable leader in a company that takes
diversity among employees and customers seriously. e honest
truth? Such a reputation will give you an advantage over the many
white male managers who still ignore or resist diversity.
ere are too many rewards from managing diversity to tolerate the blame
and shame game. Use this book to make diversity work for you.
SELF -INTEREST AS MOTIVATION
Diversity is “the right thing to do” when it is the right thing to do for
you. When you experience the beneﬁts of working with diverse people, you
seek more. Self-interest is a powerful motivator. It is the means by which a
collaborative advantage becomes sustainable. at we will pursue our own
self-interest is as certain as the increase in health care costs.
Of course, the self-interest in diversity for white men who lead is not self-
evident. When diversity seems to exclude you, you will not support it with
enthusiasm. People do not thrive by participating in behaviors that threaten
or neglect them. is is a central tenet of diversity work, and it applies to
white men and others alike.
e self-interest in diversity may be deﬁned as a healthy attention to
your own motivations and needs, as you work with diverse people. In this
40 CORE IDEAS
context, self-interest is not a selﬁshness that calculates every action only in
terms of personal beneﬁt. Instead, mature self-interested managers coordinate
a variety of interests: helping colleagues and subordinates succeed, meeting
performance objectives, satisfying the customer, pursuing the ﬁnancial success
of the department and company, all while still ﬁnding time for family and
the rest of life. Some self-interests mesh, while others compete. You may have
to choose, for example, between allowing a diverse team the time it needs
to accomplish work as delegated, or getting more involved than you would
prefer in order to meet a deadline.
Coworkers (whether boss, peers, or employees) bring their own interests
to each meeting, hallway chat, phone call, golf round, and email. Again, the
interests of team members may dovetail or collide. Manage eﬀectively by
operating with a clear sense of what you need and want, in order to negotiate
successfully with similarly self-interested colleagues.
Increasingly, colleagues and customers diﬀer from you in pigment, gender,
relational orientation and attraction, physical ability, and spoken language.
is diverse business environment requires every manager to negotiate among
competing self-interests shaped by all the dimensions of diversity.
Here’s the proof that self-interest is a useful dynamic to manage: every
employee is a unit of one, whom you must lead individually. So you have to
lead in a way that works for you, too.
You will work successfully with black colleagues and customers only if you
develop your tangible self-interest in doing so.
C S: Speciﬁcally, what’s in it for you to build your
competence at leading among diverse employees and customers?
to personal response-ability.
hen I was thirteen, I attended a racial reconciliation
workshop at Blaine Memorial United Methodist
Church in Seattle. is was 1967, and interracial
conﬂict was burning its way across America. I have
always remembered what Reverend Woodie White (a black pastor and now
a retired bishop) taught me.
• Black people resent being viewed as a “problem,” when white
people are often the main problem black folks have.
• Since being black in America is hard enough, many black
people tire of the expectation that they should teach white
folks about race.
42 CORE IDEAS
• White people must learn how to accept responsibility for
Let me be clear: the point is not to label you as a “white man who leads.”
A manager once scoﬀed to me: “I’ve just been hyphenated—now I’m a
European-American!” is book does not pander to racial politics or set you
up for another round of the blame game.
Instead, I hope you’re reading this book because you want to accept personal
responsibility and whatever comes with it—the good and the painful—in
twenty-ﬁrst-century America. As a white man who leads, investing in diversity
will deliver positive returns.
I implore you to accept this challenge as your own: lead as the best white
man you can be. Fuel your professional success with personal development,
hold yourself accountable in a way no one else can, and remove from black
people the burden of teaching you about race. Educate yourself. Renew the
courage of your convictions by speaking up as a white man who leads.
We also pursue a critical social responsibility when we learn about our
whiteness. White supremacists (and black leaders if they stereotype white
people) must be overruled as the arbiters of what it means to be a white
American. Since whiteness is our nation’s historic racial norm, as white people
we are much less likely to see how our skin color shapes our life experience.
But we must not simply acquiesce to the dangerous oddballs of the Klan
and their ilk. e crazy cousins shouldn’t be allowed to speak for the family.
It is mortifying that white racists earn media coverage with their spew and
misbehavior, while white America’s commitment to equality quietly putters
along. We need to speak up. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Our lives
begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
e heart of personal responsibility is owning who we are as a person. For
years I wondered why our whiteness, so utterly visible (the epidermis, after
LEADERSHIP 101 43
all, is the body’s most visible feature) and so obviously an advantage to us, has
remained so habitually unexamined. Why do we hide from our whiteness?
We hide from our whiteness because it hurts to pull it out, let the sun shine
on it, and claim it as our own. We avoid the chance to learn about our racial
selves and connect our identity to our race, because whiteness is inescapably,
publicly, and frequently linked to blame, shame, guilt, fear, and ignorance.
We hide from our whiteness because an inquiry into our racial selves can
feel irrelevant. When two out of three Americans are white, it’s the others
who are set apart.
We hide from our whiteness because our silence keeps the whole set-
up working. As it turns out, the profound beneﬁts of being white best
accrue and are retained by not identifying them out loud. (I’m blowing
our cover here.) ere’s an unspoken yet powerful “us versus everyone else”
presumption among us white folks. We can see it in the unmentioned but
utterly tangible impulse to whine about so-called political correctness and
reverse discrimination. It is easier to ignore, deny, neglect, and generally resist
the whole reality of racism’s impact, on us and everyone else.
We hide from our whiteness because we intuitively fear that an
unﬂinchingly honest attempt to understand our race could unravel the entire
Advantage Complex (see essays 23–26). is is our racial ecology, with its
“natural” features of merit, achievement, preference, privilege, and power.
Being a white man in a leadership role works pretty well, in America and
globally; from the time we were boys, many of us have taken our advantages
for granted. We believe in enjoying life because we are used to doing so, we
deserve to, and we’ve earned it through our accomplishments. is is not
about blame; in fact, I believe our Creator wants every person to enjoy life.
It is about becoming aware of the advantage that comes with being a man
who wears white skin. It is simply easier to hide from our whiteness than it is
44 CORE IDEAS
to courageously discover how whiteness provides advantages psychologically,
economically, educationally, and socially.
Taking responsibility for being a white man won’t be easy. But it will be
good—for us and for our black colleagues and customers.
C S: If your manager was watching for evidence that
you are personally responsible for leading with diversity in mind, what behavior
from you would demonstrate such a commitment?
O B W
or the purposes of this book, consider yourself white if you
are Caucasian with European ancestry (even if you know your
pedigree is mixed). Under the white umbrella, of course, we
are ethnically diverse: English, German, Irish, Italian, French,
Jewish, Scandinavian, and so on. In Whiteness of a Diﬀerent Color: European
Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race, Matthew Jacobson plots the experience
of European immigrants, as America transformed some of our ancestors from
lower-class non-Anglo to white Caucasian through the “alchemy of race.”
46 CORE IDEAS
Whiteness in America counts. Race (and racism) is primarily about
1) e pigment of skin, and other physical features.
2) e meanings that you, other people, and history attach to
3) e behaviors that demonstrate these meanings.
Beyond skin color as an immutable trait, the meaning of race is endlessly
debated by physicians, sociologists, political scientists, psychologists, and
diversity professionals. Take the following, for example:
• Is race a social construct rather than a physical fact? In an
article in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Ritchie Witzig,
MD, argued that race is not a medically signiﬁcant
category, but rather a social construct that aﬀects health care
decisions. Yet other medical professionals point to illnesses
suﬀered disproportionately by black patients.
• What is the precise relationship between race, ethnicity,
and nationality? A friend and colleague, organizational
psychologist Claudia White, PhD, was born and raised
in Jamaica, and pursued higher education and now lives
in California. Her skin is black, and she hails from an
island nation that is part of the Americas, but she does not
consider herself culturally African-American.
• To what degree does race inﬂuence personality? Suzanne
Shelton, PhD (my wife and a clinical psychologist), believes
that personality is the sum of all twenty dimensions of
diversity (with race as one factor), combined with our brain
organics and our Creator’s good intentions for our lives.
LEADERSHIP 101 47
• How do economic values drive our race related ideas and
actions? Slavery in America was a system grounded in the
economic exploitation of people with black skin. It was
raw capitalism, designed, funded, and led by white men.
One hundred and forty years after the Civil War, history’s
impact lingers. Many black people still struggle with
substandard education and health care, suﬀer from higher
rates of unemployment and incarceration, and experience
lower rates of home ownership, savings, and investment.
Want to quantify the value of our whiteness? Read e
Color of Wealth, by writers from United for a Fair Economy.
Chapter six details white advantage in wealth accumulation,
contrasted with chapter three, entitled “Forged in Blood:
Black Wealth Injustice in the United States.”
No single book can answer our all our questions about race. To guide further
inquiry, see the Resources section and www.leadershipforwhitemen.com.
For now, let us stipulate that race involves a host of issues. Here we seek
to equip white men who lead to focus on the personal and behavioral aspects
While we learn to lead with race and gender in mind, we do well to learn
from black people as they sort through lessons around race. Many black
people have to work harder than they want to at “being black,” because the
world seems organized to take their skin color into account.
Yet as we learn more with them and about them, our most important lessons
will be about ourselves. When white Americans step up and pursue a new
degree of personal responsibility for being white, I suspect that the burden of
racial attentiveness will begin to lift from our black colleagues and customers.
48 CORE IDEAS
Explore this key fact in your life: vital meaning ensues from the whiteness
of your skin. For example, your whiteness shapes your opportunities in
education and employment, and inﬂuences some black people to doubt your
ability to grasp diversity issues. Exploring your self-evident racial identity
(“So what if I am white?”) will produce powerful returns in your personal life
And when you hear the phrase “it’s nothing personal; it’s just business,”
don’t believe it. Business is personal because humans are involved. I invite
you to take personally the business of succeeding as a white man who leads.
C S: What does being white mean in your life?
Decide what it means
to be a good and
or many men, what it means to be a man is deﬁned in contrast
to perceptions of who women are: “Women are emotional,
I’m analytical.” “Women are relational, I’m action oriented.”
“Women are collaborative, I’m decisive.” And so on.
Such thinking is doubly mistaken—men are more than the absence or
antithesis of the feminine. Such gender-alizations conﬁne men and women
in stereotypical traits and rigid roles. Deﬁne your masculinity positively, and
take personal responsibility for leading as a man of honesty and integrity.
50 CORE IDEAS
How do men deﬁne men? Here are typical descriptors generated by white
men in my training courses over the years. When asked to generally describe
men, they say that men
• work long and hard to protect and provide for their families;
• care about giving and receiving respect;
• solve problems well;
• can get so caught up in work and achievement that they lose sight
of their relationships;
• teach their children and others about courage and risk taking;
• like to learn how to make things work;
• build trust by making and keeping promises;
• enjoy food, sports, sex, and laughing (not necessarily in that order);
• ﬁnd change stressful;
• are shaped by their physical, mental, and spiritual health;
• may feel threatened by people who are “diﬀerent.”
Granted, the phrases above also describe many women, and not all men.
And the list does not emphasize all-too-common caricatures of men (greedy,
emotionally stunted, clueless), because we are already fed that demeaning
diet. Washington Mutual recently ran a series of ads skewering a herd of
stodgy white male bankers; WaMu’s investment in inclusion should produce
a higher rate of return.
Here’s the point: you need to deﬁne your own masculinity. Women in
your life may tell you what to think, how to be, who to be. (I’m not sure why
they do this; they seem to feel we need a lot of help.) Advertisers and pundits
are more than ready to portray masculinity with a negative twist. You need
to understand on your own terms what it means to be a good and connective
man. You are the boss of you, and only you can generate your own clear
purposes as a man.
LEADERSHIP 101 51
My personal take on being and leading as a “real man” involves two key
practices: integrity and intimacy. Integrity is the congruence between who I
want to be and how I act, it’s about making and keeping promises, giving and
receiving respect, leading with courage and following with honor, getting
clear on and staying true to my values, speaking the hard truths constructively,
pursuing accountability, living with spiritual discipline, seeking wholeness
and balance. Intimacy is about focusing on connectedness in relationships,
living in a spirit of play, owning my part of being in love, nurturing safety
and touch, adventuring and laughing, listening and responding, working
through conﬂict with conﬁdence, looking for creative opportunity, expecting
growth. Women and men of all races tend to reciprocate when I show up as
a man of integrity and intimacy.
Kevin Costner, the director and actor, leads with a clear view about what
it means to be a good and connective man. Find the DVD of his ﬁlm Open
Range. e movie portrays integrity and honor, respect and intimacy among
men and women under stress. His commentary as the director profoundly
illustrates how he led the project from the inside out.
Another thing I know: black women can be great teachers. I remember
walking into work with Brenda Salter-McNeil, a black colleague (yes, the
Brenda in essay 3) at a client’s oﬃce in Colorado Springs. Normally the
door was opened by the one coming to it ﬁrst. However, each morning at
this project, Brenda waited for me to open the door to the building, even if
she got there ﬁrst and I was carrying more. It seemed odd, but I dutifully
pulled it open. Later I asked her about it. She smiled at me for noticing
and then explained that she was practicing the discipline of receiving respect
from men. She went on to explain that there were instances of young men
disrespecting women in the black community, and she was in the position of
advising both women and men about expectations around respect. So she was
practicing receiving respect from me in the form of door-opening, to prepare
52 CORE IDEAS
for leading elsewhere. And I thought it was just a door to go through!
Brenda helped me learn more about being a man. A good and eﬀective
man stays teachable while he deﬁnes his own masculinity.
And one more thing: as white men, Diversity ‘R’ Us. Here’s a multiple-
choice quiz question: Put twenty white guys who lead in a room together, and
what do you have?
1) Four golfers, four video game guys, three runners, a b-ball player,
a swimmer, a tennis wannabe, and six who think the rest of us get
too much exercise.
2) Too many opinions and a lot of interrupting.
3) A striking assortment of hair loss, sore muscles, fashion blunders,
and bad jokes.
4) A power struggle.
5) Twenty utterly unique individuals.
Answer: #5, yes #1–4, maybe
A battalion of white men in business suits features awesomely
One purpose for this book is to help you, a man Like No Other, to
leverage diversity so that you will get better at what you do, and be better
at who you are.
C S: What does it mean to you to be a “real man,” and
how does your gender inﬂuence your leadership?
integrate race and gender
into your leadership work.
n the previous essays, I’ve been speaking about race and gender
challenges. Now let’s move on to the other main topic of this book:
the work of leadership. My deﬁnition of a leader is a person who
achieves results by developing people through work.
I use leader and manager interchangeably. Don’t make too much of
distinctions between “leaders do the right thing” and “managers do things
right,” A leader can emphasize strategy, values, and vision, and attend to
54 CORE IDEAS
high-level external relationships, and he will still fail if he neglects execution.
Over time, a manager can only succeed with the team he guides when their
day-to-day performance actualizes the company’s values, vision, and strategy.
So this book equips you as a white man to factor human diﬀerences (like race
and gender) into the way you lead and manage.
Here are a few examples of such leadership:
• A department VP leads when, after helping to design a talent
management strategy, he requires candidate searches to produce
diverse and qualiﬁed candidates. en he holds fast to the
company’s practice of hiring or promoting the right candidate,
even when that means selecting a white male over a white woman
or person of color.
• e middle manager leads by ﬁnding new ways to mentor and
coach all high-potential personnel, when his previous tendency
to discuss and attend sporting events with up-and-comers
• e front line supervisor leads when he hires bilingual staﬀ
members and secures training in retail Spanish for his English-
only staﬀ, in response to an inﬂux of customers who speak more
Spanish than English, and who can shop at the competitor’s store
down the street.
• e CFO leads when, with diligence and courage, he directs a
process that determines that the company can aﬀord to extend
beneﬁts to same-sex and unmarried straight partners.
For the eﬀective twenty-ﬁrst-century leader, diversity requires a three-skill
• Give human diﬀerences their due regard. Attend to diversity
appropriately in each situation, respecting each individual. e
LEADERSHIP 101 55
practice of due regard positions you to lead in a way that accounts
for what’s actually going on with diversity, while avoiding the two
extremes of ignoring diﬀerences (without regard) or exaggerating
diﬀerences (with excessive regard). For more on this key practice,
see essay 30.
• Collaborate. Collaboration means to co-labor, to achieve business
results with your colleagues, for your customers. Here’s what
collaboration looks like. As a diversity consultant, I was brought
into a public agency to work with the senior leadership team
on race-related dynamics. e initial scope of work focused
on black versus white issues among the executives, but quickly
steered oﬀ in an unexpected direction. As it turned out, a
crucial conversation that had never occurred was between two
African-American groups: the veteran black employees who
had suﬀered from racism in the agency over the years, and the
younger generation of black leaders who had experienced almost
no racist behavior during their employ in the past ﬁve years. e
collaboration needed to happen among these black employees,
and I got to be the facilitator.
Picture my task: lead a productive dialogue among twenty
black employees from two generations. ere was plenty of
diversity by experience between them, and they all had a lot to
say! It was a memorable day of co-laboring for me. ey did a ﬁne
job of airing their concerns, honoring one another’s perspectives,
and arguing honestly. And they made plans to build a new black
network to help the organization move ahead and enhance their
56 CORE IDEAS
e good news about managing diversity is that it oﬀers you the chance
(sometimes unexpectedly) to collaborate eﬀectively. Deepen and demonstrate
the leadership skills you already possess—the work of planning, organizing,
leading, and accountability—with people you perceive as diﬀerent.
When your co-laboring skills become habitual over time, you will sustain
the professional advantages in diversity. Two truths will grow more relevant
in every passing year of your professional life: collaborate with people and
move ahead, or seek to control them and risk your career.
Leverage the dimensions of diversity among colleagues and customers to
achieve business results. e LEAD section (beginning with essay 74) focuses
entirely on this leverage.
C S: How can you integrate your growing diversity
competence into the way you collaborate with employees, peers, and clients?
Deepen the particular
participation of white
men who lead:
diversity work that adds
nce the personal and professional case for diversity is
established, another critical issue arises for the organization:
diversity as a business strategy must make business sense.
To survive as a company strategy, it must add value. And
58 CORE IDEAS
diversity must deliver to sustain commitment among us as white men who
lead. Why? Because, to generalize, we are wired for results.
Perhaps we will admit that many of us, as white male leaders, tend to focus
on action over contemplation, task over relationship, results over process. So
we grow as leaders when we join our diverse colleagues in thinking longer and
clearer, investing more in our relationships, and recognizing that inclusive
process produces superior results.
But while we improve on our shortcomings, we should also insist that our
strengths continue to contribute. As white men who lead, we are people who
excel at getting things done. Embedded in our inclinations toward action,
task, and result is the accountability for delivering on promises that our
organizations make to our customers and employees. Diversity must add
demonstrable value to the work and results of the organization. Otherwise,
we rightfully view it as a narrow concern with limited utility.
Many corporate diversity initiatives during the last twenty years have not
eﬀectively included white male managers (see Frederick R. Lynch’s book,
e Diversity Machine: e Drive to Change the “White Male” Workplace).
Such exclusion communicated a shortfall of integrity—a gospel of inclusion
that left us out. Worse, excluding white men prevented us from contributing
what we could best invest in the diversity commitment: holding diversity
accountable for adding practical and measurable value to the work and results
of the company.
is is not to say that, as a group, white male managers are as excluded
as women and people of color. at would be a lie, and a perverse twist
of the exclusionary practices inherited from our white male forefathers. I
merely highlight a simple fact: a diversity commitment that excludes the
contribution of white male managers will fail, for lack of integrity, support,
LEADERSHIP 101 59
As white men who lead, we need to participate in diversity’s success, as
individuals and as a group skilled at leading for measurable results.
What diversity metrics matter? For a start, there are discrete and critical
measures that correspond to each of the seven business motives for diversity in
essay 75 (e.g., targeting and securing diverse customers, selecting and growing
diverse talent, expanding internationally). White men who lead must insist
on, develop, and leverage diversity-related performance objectives (see essay
76). And we need to lead by calculating diversity’s return on investment (the
ROI; see essay 98).
A CEO in a Chicago ﬁnancial services company refused to develop
any business metrics for his ﬁrm’s engagement with diversity. Instead, he
announced: “We pursue diversity because it is right—not because it will
pay (although it may), not because the law requires it (although we will
comply), not because it is trendy, but only because valuing diﬀerences is
morally correct.” While I applaud his ethical inclination, ﬁve years later his
commitment to diversity produced positive media attention, but very little
in measurable business value for employees and customers. When diversity
does not serve the interests of the organization to win and retain employees
and customers, a critical competitive advantage has been squandered.
Diversity: get it right, now. “It” isn’t fancy footwork on “afraid you might
oﬀend” thin ice. You won’t get it right by lining up behind diversity as a
Human Resources fad du jour. Engage diversity as a vital leadership strategy
for working with black colleagues and customers, and with every other
stakeholder to your success.
C S: What measurable results must be produced in
order for diversity to add value to your company? How will you help to develop
and use these metrics?
hen I watch the start of the men’s 100-meter race
at the Summer Olympics, I’m always struck by the
ﬁnal preparations of the runners. Before entering the
blocks, each one has his own method for getting ready:
stretching his muscles, jumping in short leaps, glaring at his opponents,
visualizing how he will explode oﬀ the gun, going inward for focus.
ese world-class athletes don’t just crouch and take oﬀ. ey have trained for
this moment, and they persevere with the fundamentals right up to the start.
Leading as a white man is more like a marathon than a sprint, but the
readiness principle is the same. In this section, we will consider several
preparatory concepts that will launch your success as a leader on diversity.
LEADERSHIP 101 61
First, we’ll dig into two key issues standing between white and black
people: the power of pigment, and divergent views of our shared American
story. Second, we’ll shape expectations for your diversity learning, and plunge
into awareness. Finally, we’ll clarify the diﬀerence between generalizations
With these six essential essays as a tailwind, you’ll hit the ground running,
in service to black colleagues and customers.
the pigment paradigm.
o honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., my daughter Melinda’s
third grade class sang “We Shall Overcome” for the gathered
parents. I’m a child of the ’60s, and seeing my innocent and
precious little girl singing that song made my eyes water (God
help me … I couldn’t actually cry in public!). What particularly touched me
was Melinda’s question later in the day: “Why does everybody make such a
big deal about the color of somebody’s skin?” Why indeed?
So while grade school children ask that precisely right question, we as
adults permit ourselves to “mature” like rotting fruit into accepting the
notion that diﬀerent = bad. Why does everyone make such a big deal about
the color of someone’s skin?
LEADERSHIP 101 63
e talking heads on television answer with more heat than light. Here’s
my take: human cultures have used, and still use, diﬀerences in skin color and
gender to order relationships, distribute resources, and regulate opportunity.
Globally during the last ﬁve hundred years, white European men and their
male descendants have participated in such order, distribution, and regulation
to our advantage.
Pigment is paradigmatic: our white skin is powerfully advantageous to us,
and we tend to live inside the pattern without seeing it. Meanwhile, society’s
basic bias presses people with black skin to the margins. Marking them by
their melanin, our white culture assumes black people less capable, in order
to keep them in their place in the social order. Racism self-perpetuates after
four centuries in America, and between many tribes and nationalities through
four millennia in human history. Even today, color remains an eﬃcient force
to order, distribute, and regulate, long after the ideology of white supremacy
and its implementation in slavery has been discredited and discarded.
is pigment paradigm operates in our lives as a heritage from ancient
days. ere is so much momentum in our whiteness that we don’t need to
generate advantage ourselves. As white men who lead, we do not rise in the
morning with the thought: “Today I think I’ll dominate the earth, because,
after all, I’m a white guy.” It’s not a conspiracy, it’s an ecology. We’re ﬁsh who
don’t know we’re big and wet.
And, sadly, even when people of color denounce us as racists undeservedly,
they reinforce the absurd power of pigment. e daily news chronicles this
ceaseless back and forth across the color lines.
A person with black skin certainly recognizes that their pigment puts them
at a disadvantage. New York Times journalist Lena Williams writes: “ is
society makes blacks think constantly about being black … every now and
then I imagine how wonderful it must be to go out in public looking any
way one chooses and be treated and accepted as a ﬁrst-class citizen.” is is
such a telling testimony to the price of the pigment paradigm, coming from a
black professional who embodies, in her own achievements, how far America
On our side of the black-white divide, the pigment paradigm oﬀers us a
very diﬀerent cost/beneﬁt ratio. Andrew Hacker writes in Two Nations that
“all white Americans realize that their skin comprises an inestimable asset. It
opens doors and facilitates freedom of movement. It serves as a shield from
insult and harassment.” And this asset of white skin is even more valuable for
men who hold position power as leaders.
Yet the tide turns: this historical advantage accruing to white men is now
eroding, as demographics change the workforce and marketplace. White
men in leadership jobs compose only ﬁve percent of employed Americans;
there is now no ethnic majority in California; and every American will be
a “minority” before 2050. Our grandchildren’s experience of the pigment
paradigm will diﬀer dramatically from our own.
But let’s not travel too far into America’s future, because we need to take
a hard look back into the legacy of the pigment paradigm. As it turns out,
diverging views of history are pivotal for the white man who seeks to lead
more successfully among black colleagues and customers. at’s what the
next essay explores.
C S: Why does everyone make such a big deal about the
color of somebody’s skin?
the history rift.
lack and white Americans tend to think about history
diﬀerently. White men who lead for a living, in particular,
need to understand this diﬀerence.
We white people know the stories of our family lines. We
understand that much of what we enjoy today may be traced to the courage,
choices, love, and hard work of our parents, grandparents, and other relatives
back into the past, mostly in America and Europe. Our ancestors struggled
mightily (almost all of my family, ﬁve and six generations back, came west on
the Oregon Trail), and we stand on their shoulders.
While we deeply appreciate our heritage, we don’t dwell on the past.
We tend to order our identities and daily lives around individuality, our
immediate family, and our expectations for the future.
But yesterday shadows today among black Americans. To be black in
America—so I’ve been told—is to know every day that your skin color alone
puts you at risk. It is to remember (at least in the back of your mind) that
black people have paid that price since 1619, when people of Africa were
enslaved and forced to these shores. For twenty ensuing generations, black
American’s courage, choices, love, and hard work shaped and produced the
African-Americans we know today.
Consequently, black individuals identify with their “group” and their
cultural history in a manner and to a degree that we as white people neither
share nor comprehend.
ere is a history rift between black and white Americans, and we need to
do what we can to close it from our side. Consider a few historical examples
after 1860 that put this gap in perspective:
• Many black citizens view the Civil War as a tragic but belated
necessity, the promise of which has yet to be fulﬁlled, since white
men are often still their problem. For white men who know
Civil War history, it rankles if black people castigate all of us as a
group, because we remember that 620,000 white men died in the
struggle over slavery.
• Between 1882 and 1964, according to records kept by the
Tuskegee Institute, white men lynched 3,445 black men. If you
do the math, you will ﬁnd that men who looked like us hanged
three black men per month for eighty-two years running. My
own family’s contrasting path in the same timeline: my maternal
grandmother was born in 1883, served as one of the ﬁrst female
LEADERSHIP 101 67
teachers in Kittitas County, Washington, and raised a family with
my pioneer-stock grandfather. By 1964, both my parents had
graduated from college and lived in the suburbs with their three
healthy children. Black men died, while my family thrived.
• White people may long for “the good old days.” Black folks may view
such nostalgia as a wish for a time when black people did as they
were told. e history rift is alive in our midst: when U.S. senator
Trent Lott oﬀered a tribute to segregationist Strom urmond in
2002, he lost his Senate leadership role and received a public rebuke.
Apparently the good old days weren’t good for everyone.
• White America should be shocked about the level of agreement
within the black community on the case for reparations for
slavery. In a Gallup poll, ﬁfty-ﬁve percent of blacks agreed that
the government should provide a cash reparation for the ongoing
eﬀects of the slave system. Ninety percent of whites disagreed.
Here are numbers to quantify the history rift!
When we mutually address our divergent views of our common story and
our present situation, we will more eﬀectively move to improve the quality of
life among suﬀering black citizens. Here’s one thing you can do: buy a copy
of Manning Marable’s e Great Wells of Democracy, and read chapter nine,
entitled “Forty Acres and a Mule: e Case for Black Reparations.” It will rock
your view of history and teach you about the history rift we need to close.
I hope black Americans will accept the advice of Holocaust survivors:
“forgive and remember.” While black people do this hard, daily work of
forgiving, what can we, as white men who lead, do from our side of the
history rift? I’ve been trying these three things since 1987, and they seem to
be working for me:
1) Acknowledge to myself that black people may expect me to be
ignorant about history and arrogant about opportunity. If they
do, I want to prove them wrong.
2) Learn about black history and how my own history has worked to
my advantage. Share this learning with black and white colleagues
and friends, as appropriate. is includes a disciplined refusal
to grow defensive when accused of having ancestors who owned
slaves. In my case and to my knowledge, that is not true. But
I’m learning to see the history rift as the real point. e trump
card implication that “your people owned my people” is about
opportunity denied to black people and accrued by white people,
and how we move forward.
3) I try to surprise African-Americans, if they expect ignorance and
arrogance, by instead giving deference and welcome, validating
their view of history and the limits it places on them today,
acknowledging that I derive resources and advantage by hailing
from a white family, looking them in the eye with respect and a
hospitable attitude, and seeking mutual opportunity.
We can make very practical behavioral choices to begin closing the history
rift. To actualize our national motto, E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One),
we can explore and heal these divergent views of and experience with the
C S: What can you do to understand and close the
history rift between white and black Americans?
to Relative Expertise.
earning to lead with diversity in view is a daunting and exciting
chance to grow transformatively. Transformation is dramatic
growth in an individual or an organization’s character and
performance. Join me in traveling the Transformation Curve,
the ﬁve stages for growing your competence with human diﬀerences. Each
stage oﬀers a new level of learning about how to lead through the dimensions
is essay introduces the entire Transformation Curve. e ﬁrst level,
Pre-Awareness, is considered more fully in the next essay, and the other four
stages are presented in essays 31–-35.
D F S
You progress through these stages in order. You can’t skip one. And your
learning curve is diﬀerent for each dimension of diversity. For instance, you
may have learned your way to Relative Expertise on gender, and still be pre-
aware about race.
• Pre-Awareness: Ignorance and naivete operate freely here; “I don’t
know what I don’t know.” In this phase, you are not yet aware of
diversity’s signiﬁcance to your leadership work. (See essay 17.)
LEADERSHIP 101 71
• Interest and Necessity: Here’s where engagement kicks in. Your
values and circumstances compel you to deploy awareness, to
recognize and understand individual and cultural diﬀerences and
similarities among colleagues and customers. In this stage, you
want to learn and you need to learn. (See essay 31.)
• Careful Skill Progress: At this stage, you experiment cautiously.
Your expanding relationships, knowledge, and skills can get
you into trouble, and can also get new things done. You evolve
your leadership skills through an unpredictable mix of awkward
attempts and conﬁdent skill building. (See essay 32.)
• Adventurous Competence: is is the point where your investment
in leading among diverse colleagues and customers starts to show
real results. You eﬀectively diagnose diﬀerences at work, problem
solve with sensitivity to diverse needs, and proactively manage
multiple dimensions of diversity. (See essays 33–34.)
• Relative Expertise: You are recognized by diverse stakeholders as
an expert, and you mentor others through the previous stages.
“Relative” means you hold your expertise with humility; you lead
across diﬀerences from your side, always remembering your limits
so that you honor others’ experience and evoke their contribution.
(See essay 35.)
Within each of the ﬁve stages, there is a natural order for learning. ere’s
a dynamism to this process, as we build relationships by increasing knowledge
and skill. Here’s the formula:
Relationships When you explore diﬀerences with speciﬁc, diverse
colleagues and customers …
Knowledge you are motivated to learn what you need to know,
Skills then you apply your knowledge to achieve results
through your relationships.
Here’s the point: your connection to real people drives your transformation.
I am truly pleased that you are reading this book. And it’s not enough. Learning
about diversity without building skills in actual diverse relationships is like
studying the operating manual for a car and then thinking you know how
to drive. To lead with human diﬀerences in view, your knowledge and skills
must grow among actual humans who diﬀer from you.
To illustrate: a college asked me to debate a white male professor on the
question, “Is aﬃrmative action a justiﬁable and useful public policy?” e
professor and I had a lively dispute about aﬃrmative action’s true impact and
botched reputation (see essay 25 for my views). It became clear to me that
while he was well versed in facts and arguments, he did not possess any of
the nuanced compassion and honest data that accompanies actually knowing
real people who have beneﬁted from aﬃrmative policies and practices. So
I asked him, point blank, if he had ever talked directly to a black person
(there at the college or anywhere else) who had gained opportunity through
aﬃrmative action. I suspect he knew I was preparing something devious with
my question, because he paused. But he answered honestly; he had never
spoken about aﬃrmative action with one of its beneﬁciaries. My response: to
advocate a public policy position, it is probably advisable to actually know
the public as well as the policy.
Embed your growing competence with human diﬀerences in your
emerging relationships with “diﬀerent” humans. ey will prove to be
LEADERSHIP 101 73
invaluable partners as you move from ignorance to expertise along diversity’s
C S: With regard to race and gender diﬀerences, in
which stage of the Transformation Curve are you?
Acknowledge that you don’t
know what you don’t know.
e greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.
T C, S
LEADERSHIP 101 75
o we actually have a problem if we’re not aware of it? You bet.
Sometimes our problem is that we don’t know we have one.
Pre-Awareness, by deﬁnition, is the state of mind prior
to awareness. I prefer the term Pre-Awareness to the ever-
popular “clueless” as a descriptor of white men. It blames less and encourages
more, by locating ignorance as a starting point for learning, rather than
an unchangeable state. Pre-Awareness can lead you to awareness, deﬁned
as recognizing and understanding individual and cultural diﬀerences and
similarities among your colleagues and customers.
Perhaps ignorance used to be bliss for white male leaders, but these days
incomprehension can be the mother of much misery. What you don’t know
can hurt you bad. When you, as a manager, do not recognize and understand
human diﬀerences at work, you may unintentionally
• oﬀend, harass, or discriminate against others;
• lose excellent employees;
• hurt your team’s results;
• drive away customers and suppliers.
e outcomes of Pre-Awareness can sting, and every manager is vulnerable.
Here’s a true example.
Lewis was the facilities manager in a growing hospital. To create a family-
friendly setting, a committee he chaired renamed the four elevators Zebra,
Orca, Eagle, and Lion. Unfortunately, Orca (as in whale) served the unit
caring for obese patients and their families, who were deeply oﬀended. Lewis’s
attempt to improve customer service backﬁred. Pre-Awareness strikes again.
Here are ﬁve warning signs that you may be suﬀering from Pre-Awareness
of diversity-related issues:
• You are taken by surprise by some aspect of diversity, and
mystiﬁed about what happened.
• e protest “I couldn’t have known that!” leaps into your mind.
• You sense a strong impulse to defend some aspect of who you are
(e.g., as a white person, a man, an American).
• You prefer to work with people who are like you (by race, gender,